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Vigils Planned In LA As Local Afghan Americans Mourn ‘Loss Of Our Own Motherland’

Women, many with their hair covered, and young children are packed together in a crowd up against a barrier with their arms outstretched.
Internally displaced Afghan families, who fled from Kunduz and Takhar province earlier this month due to battles between Taliban and Afghan security forces, collect food in Kabul on August 9, 2021. In Los Angeles, vigils are planned to express grief over the Taliban takeover.
/AFP via Getty Images)
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In response to the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan, a group of local Afghan-American activists are holding a vigil outside the Federal Building in West L.A. Tuesday night.

Organizers chose a candle-lit vigil to signify their sense of mourning.

There also are protest plans in the coming weeks, said Afghan-American activist Fallon Zuhal Ferguson. Right now, she said the focus is on remembering the lives lost over decades of conflict.

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“And also the loss of our country, the loss of our people, the loss of our rights. We are completely torn apart and mourning the loss of our own motherland,” she said.

Ferguson organized the vigil with a group of Los Angeles-based Afghan-American activists, and says those like her who have family and friends currently living in Afghanistan are on the verge of tears every day: “Some of us haven't heard from them in days.”

She said they are unable to get updates on their welfare or whereabouts without a centralized source of information.

Ferguson and her group are calling for the United States to adopt an open door policy for accepting Afghan refugees.

Refugees from Afghanistan have been admitted only in very small numbers in recent years following the strict immigration policies of the Trump administration. Those not admitted have included Afghans who worked with the U.S. military.

Heather Kwak, with World Relief Southern Californiadescribes the current situation in Afghanistan as "an ongoing, devastating situation." Her organization provides legal services for refugees and immigrants.

"With the evacuation of the U.S. Consulate, there's a lot of unknowns right now," she told AirTalk, our newsroom's public affairs and call-in show that airs on 89.3 KPCC. We have folks who have visas in their passport not allowed to come to the United States at this time."

One caller, Salman in San Juan Capistrano, said the least the American government can do is help Afghans who've worked with the U.S. — and their families — leave the country.

His parents came to California as refugees in the 1980s.

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"We could have left in such a dignified and more classy manner, we could have left with so much more grace and respect for the people that we had occupied for over 20 years," he said.

Madina Wardak, a mental health social worker, works with fellow Afghan Americans in Southern California. She said their conversations right now are dominated by grief.

"Whether you are the grandchild of refugees, you know, even if you don't speak a lick of Farsi or Pashto, intergenerational trauma is something that's ravaged our communities," she said.

Listen to the conversation

Listen: How The Taliban Takeover Is Affecting SoCal's Afghan Communities

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